I hear from a lot of friends that one of the most stressful parts of traveling is packing for the trip. They overpack; they forget things; they never have what they want for the weather/event; they end up throwing things into a bag and arriving with luggage full of mismatched socks, half a bathing suit, and nothing to cover up with when the nights get chilly.
Well, worry not. I consider myself an expert packer – and not because I use fancy vacuum-sealed packing pouches, or luggage cubes, or any of the plethora of cool travel aids I DO one day plan to have. Nope, I’m simply a prepared traveler who is gone almost every weekend of the year and needs to know how to throw together a bag quick – and with style. So here are some of my secrets:
First, check the weather at your destination, then make a list of events you need to be prepared for throughout the trip. Make sure you check both the weather during the day and the weather at night to see if you’ll need layers (or socks/closed toe shoes!) and make a comprehensive list of events, even the seemingly small (for example, if you’re going to a wedding, of course bring your formalwear for the reception, but don’t forget about the rehearsal dinner, morning-after brunch, or even late-night hotel party when you’ll be DYING to get out of your formalwear and into something more appropriate). For my next weekend trip, I spend on hitting the pool, so I’ve packed a beach hat, sunscreen and bathing suit for that “event.”
Next, set a color theme. My theme for this weekend’s travel is simple: graphic black and white. This allows me to narrow down my shoe choices, add accessories that can cross over several different outfits, and streamline to a single purse. Make sure every outfit you select fits the color theme, is appropriate for the specific event, and make sure you have at least one outfit of separates that mix and match with each other into a new outfit (this is the “backup” outfit in case your flight gets delayed or you simply aren’t feeling your original combo).
After the clothing choices are done, choose a staple shoe (this is the everyday, walking-around option) and a fancy shoe (something that can elevate the daytime outfits to nighttime status). That’s right folks: stick to TWO pairs of shoes (plus running shoes, to be addressed later). Be firm with your color theme and creative with accessories and this should not be a problem.
Speaking of accessories, I like to choose several mix and match pieces that can go with any of the outfits (in the case of this weekend, a few bangles, a few cuffs, and a gold chain will do) and pack ’em up in the ONE (yes, again, be firm!) purse – functional and contained in one place. For an extra tip I stole from my best friend, wrap the pieces individually in tissue paper before tossing them in the purse, eliminating tangled chains and chipped enamel upon arrival.
Once you’ve got outfits and accessories, you’re almost done – but before you start packing anything, lay out the undergarments you need for each outfit (think of whether you need strapless or racer-back for a given outfit; if you need nude underwear for light pieces, or if you need compression or shapewear for your formal garments). The worst thing in the world is to arrive at your destination white with white pants and nothing to wear underneath but floral briefs. Make like a Boy Scout and be prepared – for anything!
Finally, whether you choose the traditional fold or trendy roll method, pack your clothes from the end of the trip backward – for this weekend, for example, I am packing my “Monday” clothes on the bottom, topped by Sunday, then Saturday on top – this way I can unpack in the order I am actually wearing the clothes, eliminating rifling through my bag and wrinkling everything looking for a certain piece. Accessories go right on top and ta-da – you’re packed!
But remember when I mentioned my running shoes above? Yep, they don’t go in the bag – and there’s several reasons for that. First of all, I like to wear my (cutest!) gym clothing when I travel, mostly because it’s comfortable, but also because I then know I have my gym outfit for the weekend, I don’t have to pack stinky gym shoes in a nice clean bag, and I don’t have to carry the bulk of sports bras, pants, tanks, jackets and shoes throughout the trip – I’m already wearing them! Just remember to bring a dirty clothes bag and close-tie shoe bag for after you wear the stuff at your destination; they have to get back somehow.
One final note – toiletries. The best way to do it is to keep a pre-packed bag of all your travel-size toiletries ready to go – this way you are never left wondering if you have an essential item, and you can toss it in before the day you leave for a no-stress departure. It takes some effort to maintain the travel-size stuff (when you run out of toothpaste at your destination, you have to make a note to replace it when you get home before your next trip!), but it will save you lots of time and worry.
What are your “insider” travel tips? Are you a particular packer – or a last-minute loader?